New Kensington-Arnold district, teachers’ union making progress on contract
More than 18 months after their last teachers’ contract expired, negotiators in the New Kensington-Arnold School District may be closing in on a new labor pact.
Officials from both the teachers’ union and the district say they are making progress in resolving their differences.
“We’ve been working without a contract for 529 days,” said Phil Cope, a spokesman for the 162-member New Kensington-Arnold Education Association.
Teachers are working under the terms of a contract that expired Aug. 31, 2017. Negotiations for a new agreement started the January before it expired and have continued with little progress.
The latest school board meeting was packed with teachers who came out in force to raise awareness about the stalemate.
“When our contract expired… we did not expect to continue to be without a contract for over 18 months. This has been a difficult situation for our members, who are professional educators that continue to provide the high quality of service that the taxpayers in this community deserve.”
It’s those taxpayers the district is trying to best serve, Superintendent John Pallone said.
“We pinch pennies where we can… it’s expensive to run a school,” Pallone said. “The lion’s share of our budget is wages and benefits. We only have so many dollars in the pot.”
It’s challenging because the cost of everything increases each year and the district is trying to negotiate a contract it can afford, Pallone said.
“We continue to meet and we’re hopeful we can come to an agreement,” he said. “We’re hopeful that everyone can put their reasonable glasses on and come up with a fair and equitable resolution.”
Negotiations held Friday evening have both sides optimistic.
“Our negotiations team feels that discussions on Friday succeeded in overcoming some significant hurdles which have prevented our two sides from reaching agreement,” said Cope, who tempered his optimism by pointing out that negotiators still have some details to work out.
Neither side would publicly detail the sticking points.
“We are confident that the school board understands the urgency of the situation and, with any luck, we will reach agreement on a successor contract in the very near future,” Cope said.
The next negotiations are slated for Feb. 27.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-487-7208, [email protected] or via Twitter @TribDavidson.